by Witness Kozanayi, researcher supporting the SKI AEL Participatory Action (PAR) Research process

After carrying out a baseline survey on their landscape, residents in Saurombe construct a gabion across a gulley in the village.
(Photo: Mukonoweshuro)

Ever since SKI partners started using PAR in their work, those involved have been impressed by the approach. Anecdotes gleaned from farmers through meetings or WhatsApp platforms, and from a SKI Community of Practice (CoP) workshop involving all SKI partners in Zimbabwe from 1-5 August 2022 show that the PAR approach is being embraced by SKI partners. Sentiments expressed by the partners involved in piloting the approach are encouraging –that the approach aids them in doing their work and fits seamlessly with the other people-centred approaches they use, such as Integrated Land Use Design (ILUD). Among other things, partners noted that PAR stimulates use of traditional knowledge, and complements other ongoing SKI processes such as local level video and photography and story writing.

Drawing on sentiments from the Shashe CoP meeting, partners envision PAR to be part of the narrative that SKI develops on knowledge generation. Potentially, PAR helps partners to hone their data collection and analytical skills, and subsequent documentation of stories of local significance.

What have been the key drivers of PAR?

  • The youth actively participated in the PAR training, something which has been identified as the bedrock on which the PAR process is built.
  • In each community, there are many research issues which excite localresidents. Most of these revolve around addressing environmental challenges related to attaining regenerated landscapes that are able to nourish both people and wildlife.
  • PAR embraces error, social learning, and inclusivity in terms of actors and ideas. In PAR, every idea matters.

Going forward there is need for SKI to continue supporting partners as they take the lead in local level research processes. Partner-to partner learning is also encouraged, as are discussions between researchers and the local level PAR facilitators. This helps to build capacity and support the generation of more robust and relevant knowledge that addresses local challenges.